The Women Most Likely To Lift The US Open
With both Justine Henin and Serena Williams out of this year’s US Open, the draw has opened up in a big way. Defending champion Kim Clijsters remains huge threat but the number one seed, Caroline Wozniacki, has never won a Slam. Who are the women most likely to be celebrating at the end of a week? It’s not an easy pick but these are the five I think have the best shot.
1. Kim Clijsters: The bookies favourite, mother of one Clijsters rolls into New York as the defending champion. Not only is she the favourite, Clijsters is in formidable form on hard-courts after coming off an average clay and grass season. Clijsters won the title in Cincinnati, coming back from match point down against Maria Sharapova to take the title in three sets. Clijsters was upset at the Rogers Cup by Vera Zvonareva, but had pulled a thigh muscle in her three set loss. She has been granted a reasonably difficult draw, with Marion Bartoli as a potential fourth round opponent. Clijsters could meet Elena Dementieva or Sam Stosur in the quarterfinals, but both players have struggled with form and injury. With her left thigh fully recovered, Clijsters should be in formidable form.
2. Caroline Wozniacki: The number one seed copes a rough time for being slam-less and having a defensive style, but Wozniacki constantly frustrates her critics by winning constantly. The charismatic Dane won the Pilot Pen Tennis title in New Haven this weekend in a three set battle over Nadia Petrova. Even more impressively, she claimed theRoger’s Cup, the biggest title of her career, in Toronto earlier this month. There is no denying the ever-smiling 20 year old has added some aggression and a bigger serve to her game and to great success. She may never be aggressive, but it is highly likely Wozniacki won’t need to hoist her first Slam, she’s been winning just fine. What may hamper her is the amount she has been winning, Wozniacki’s decision to enter the Pilot Pen was questionable due to the amount of tennis she has been playing.
3. Maria Sharapova: Her road to recovery post shoulder surgery hasn’t been easy but the Russian finally seems to be getting back to her best. Sharapova had match points against Clijsters in Cincinnati but disruptions from the weather rattled the usually calm blonde’s nerves. Sharapova then suffered a heel injury late in the second set and it severely hampered her play in the third. She withdrew from the Roger’s Cup to recover it in time for the Open. Assuming she is fully fit, Sharapova has a huge shot at winning her fourth major. She’s been unlucky with draws in 2010, drawing Henin in the third round and Serena in the fourth at Roland Garros and Wimbledon respectively. This time is almost just as bad with her due to face Wozniacki in the fourth round. Sharapova will like her chances however and if she can come through that match odds will be on her to meet Clijsters in the final.
4. Victoria Azarenka: After a brief slump, the feisty Belorussian is back in the top ten and seeded tenth for the Open. She was on fire in Stanford where she claimed her fourth title with a straight sets victory over Sharapova. She was upset in Cincannati but made the semis at the Rogers Cup, where she had to retire with an injury against Zvonareva. Many, Peter Bodo included, pick Azarenka to make a break out at the US Open having never been past the quarters of a Slam before. Barring a potential tough match against Venus Williams, Azarenka is favoured to reach the semis where she would take on Clijsters. Her serve has been clicking as have her aggressive ground-strokes. Azarenka is also an established net player, she just tends to avoid using it in singles. She has everything she needs to win a Slam, consistency remains the only factor.
5. Vera Zvonareva: She had a break out performance at Wimbledon this year, where she made the final and the seventh seed has continued her fine form with wins over Clijsters and Azarenka at the Roger’s Cup, where she was eventually crowned runner-up to Wozniacki. To reach the semis in the top half of the draw at the Open she is likely to have to come through Nadia Petrova in what is likely to be a brilliant third round clash. She will be due to meet Jelena Jankovic in the quarters, but would have a good chance at beating the struggling Serbian. Zvonareva should make the semis if she plays well, and from there anything can happen.